Today a student asked me if I thought normal people could make great art. My response was impulsive. I immediately thought of that wonderful Philip Larkin line, “Happiness writes white.” Then I recalled something Mailer once said about another writer whose name escapes me: “He lacked the wound.” Then I said to her, “Truly great art requires a wound.” On the other hand, plenty of messed up people don’t become artists–no talent. Also, plenty of normal people do become artists. Does, say, Nabokov qualify? But personally, I’m drawn to the haunted, the doomed, the obsessed, so those examples are more available to me. There’s research too, on the correlation—not causation necessarily—between creativity and depression + early loss + alcoholism. Anyway, this topic has been around forever. Art and madness. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. My daughter is working on a paper for class now–on Kafka and Garcia-Marquez. One mad, one sane. I think.